tv Paisley Caves and the First Americans in Oregon CSPAN June 4, 2017 2:54pm-3:04pm EDT
need to get careful with the myth. the way hollywood has played with the movies. >> our cities towards staff -- tour staff recently traveled to eugene, oregon to learn about the rich history. >> we look at eugene's unique history. come into the museum of natural and cultural history were will hear from dr. dennis jenkins about his archaeological work which are located about 200 miles southeast of eugene. dr. jenkins: when i was a student in the 1970's, we were taught people had only been here about 11,000 years. well, as time has gone on and certainly with the radiocarbon dating of human dna and coprolites and the paisley caves, that story begins to come apart.
the paisley caves are found in the high desert of central oregon. it is technically called the northern great basin. that is because all of the water flows to the interior and no access out to the pacific ocean so it evaporates. it comes from the mountains surrounded it. it was excavated in 1938 and a little bit in 1940. when he was finished, he published and said he had found extinct animals from the ice age, horses and camels that were here, you know, north america before they were actually found in other portions of the world. he talked about people hunting these animals and he had found a small -- in the cave with the bones surrounded it.
and he said he had proven people were in the northern great basin during the ice age. it did not take long and the archaeologists, professionals asked him, began to question whether or not this was a good association between the artifacts and the bones. and he, unfortunately, the excavations had been conducted so hastily that they did not record all of the information they needed to address those questions. in 2002, i returned there with the archaeological field school and began work well aware that we had to document the exact locations of the artifacts, as well as the bones. what i wanted to do was see if i could get the radiocarbon dates on artifacts to overlap those of the camel and horse bones.
i did not know at the time what part human coprolites would play and that did not come about until about 2005 when -- from the university of copenhagen in denmark found ancient human dna in some other coprolites i had given him. this is my lab, it is not very fancy, but it does its job. we are looking at the materials that we have collected from the paisley caves over the last 10 years, actually. we began in 2002, and so i guess it has been about 15 years. what we are looking at here is our cataloging system. basically, a equals artifacts and each of the tubs will be artifacts, botanicals, plant matter that we collected. that is what we have here. a is artifacts and of those classes.
c represents a coprolite. we have 1800 of them that were big enough that we thought that perhaps they could be human. as you can see, we would collected these in the, in a full hazmat outfit so every time we encountered a coprolite we have to stop work and put on the hazmat to in an attempt to keep our contamination of getting our own personal dna in molecular form into a coprolite of this age.
and so, it is a very slow, meticulous process, expensive. and to some degree, not very green because everything is individually packaged. just like going into surgery, that is the process that we have gone through for each one of these caught -- coprolites, you are seeing here. we collected them, like i said, in a hazmat suit with the white,
funny suit and a facemask and two pairs of gloves. nobody really wants to handle them without gloves. all of this is done in a protocol that allows us to really restricting the amount of modern contamination by our own a dna. when we get done, ideally, this coprolite should have been in one of those containers that i showed you and sealed up with all of the information written on the outside. unfortunately, this very nice-looking humanlike coprolite was found and recorded as being found in the screen, which means it probably was contaminated by the time it was found. so, that allows us on the other hand to bring it out and show and people ask, how can you identify these? they look pretty much like a coprolite that fido would leave in the backyard and after they
tried out, they become pellets. they are relatively easy to identify in the sediments within the caves. normally, we would not handle these, but it is already been contaminated. it is the right color. it has a lot of vegetation inside. it does seem to have perhaps a human appearance to this one. we do not know it is human because at this stage, we have not done dna analysis. the significance and beauty of finding coprolites like this and being able to identify human dna in them is the fact that that if we had found human remains like bones or dried human flesh, we would not be able to study it because the fact that those human remains are protected by law. and certainly, some native tribes are in agreement that if we respectfully, analysis is done, they will allow it.
it is always a sensitive issue. in this case, the native americans cannot throw their entire -- can throw their entire agreement behind my work because what i am basically dealing with is garbage that has been left behind. yet, it has their dna in it. they are as interested as we are in the story of their ancestors coming here from siberia. so, we have identified groups a, a2, b2 in some of these coprolites from the paisley caves. we know the area of eastern asia that those groups probably
originated from during the places means of when they originated and left asian to come to north america. this is a way that we can work closely with the native tribes and all of us learned something through the archaeology. >> a weekend american tv is that on the university of oregon. we recently visited many sites and showcase its history. learn more about eugene all weekend. on american history tv. the logging industry in oregon was really important because it was seen as sort of an exhaustible resource. when you first come to oregon, if